When it comes to writing essays, students find them to be the most daunting task and also the most time consuming. These essays usually weigh heavy on their grades, so they are important to complete with a good mark. Essays are meant to showcase what you have learned and to test your critical thinking skills. You develop your own idea and transform and explain it all the way through to the end, hoping that your reader understood your ideas.
But here we are in the 21st century, where the lines of laziness and efficiency are blurred and some students want to take the short route and plagiarize. I can confidently tell you that this is a horrible, horrible idea. Just take it from us, the consequences are hefty. Sometimes you find a good idea though, and you’d like to take it and use it in your essay. That’s totally fine — as long as you write it in your own words.
This is the beauty of writing, you can express yourself in an endless amount of ways, as long as you have the capacity to think and analyze it. But sometimes you don’t even know that you are plagiarizing, and it could cost you.
Here’s a great shortlist of ways to AVOID plagiarizing like avoiding the plague.
Keep track of your research
If you’re going to do some research on your topic, make sure you bookmark and make notes of the content you are using from there. It’s easier to cross reference your annotated lists of references than having to go back through each text. This includes videos, pictures, and other media forms as well. Then you’ll easily be able to credit the right source. This is important especially for essays that require research, as you’ll need to be able to prove your ideas. Just go back through your list and make the proper citations.
Use proper citations
Not only is your research important, but how you cite it is equally as important. When you use your sources, you must use the proper citation so that readers can reference this text. This shows that you’ve borrowed information and used it in your own essay, but properly.
Failure to properly cite your sources is in fact, plagiarism. Make sure to check which citation format your teacher or professor wants you to use, as there are several different kinds.
When you can’t explain it any better than the source can, sometimes all you can do it quote them. Quoting means to take the exact words from the text you are sourcing from, and citing this exact quote. Students often fail to include quotations in their text, making their essay just a bit more difficult to write. Be aware that there are a few different types of quotation styles, like a direct quote and a block quote. A direct quote is usually used for a single sentence or phrases that aren’t very long.
“It looks likes this” (citation 1)
A block quote is a bit different, and usually used for a paragraph or more that is being directly used. It is written separately from the text in its own “block.”
Be careful not to use too many quotations, as this is borderline plagiarism. You want to use any kind of quotation sparingly, and with proper citations.
Use quotations only when:
- You want to keep the style of the original writer
- You are not able to paraphrase without changing the meaning
- You are using exact definitions directly from the author
Learning to paraphrase will be your best friend when it comes to writing essays. This is basically regurgitating all the information from the sources and writing them in your own style. You can focus on the most important topics at hand rather than using every piece of information you find. This will help you trim the fat from all the research you’ve done.
This takes a lot more effort to do, as it shows you can critically analyze the information and put it in a way that you understand it.
Paraphrasing may be a bit difficult, so I recommend using a dictionary or thesaurus to look up words and phrases you can use in place of another one. Paraphrased sentences and paragraphs will only need a citation at the end of the paragraph, but without referencing page numbers and things like that.
Your essay is supposed to show your ideas explained – so it just goes along that using original thoughts will help you avoid plagiarism. If you put in the work to create original ideas and thesis, avoiding plagiarism will be a lot easier.
Brainstorm your ideas for your topic first, and then start your research, as then you’ll have enough content but still be able to write what you’ve personally been thinking.
Ask your professor
Your teacher or professor can definitely help you out in this situation. If you’re having trouble explaining something in your own words, they can break it down for you so you’ll be able to express your ideas. Students often forget they can ask their professor for help, they are a very valuable resource!
Use a plagiarism checker
Believe it or not, there are plagiarism checkers that teachers and professors use to check student’s work if it’s authentic or not. These are usually free to use, so if you’re worried about your work, visit websites like Quetext, EasyBib, or Plagscan and use their resources.
Once you’ve spotted a few mistakes, you should reevaluate how you want to express your ideas. Go back to paraphrasing and properly citing your sources to avoid plagiarism.
When in doubt, you can also refer to Assignment Expert to help you with all your writing needs.